2017 Student Research Conference:
30th Annual Student Research Conference

"The Sign's the Thing": Entertainment-as-Drug in Wallace's Infinite Jest


Alan J. Smith
Dr. Hena Ahmad, Faculty Mentor


In his novel, Infinite Jest, David Foster Wallace constructs a cultural landscape saturated with drugs and visual media in equal parts. Depictions of television and consumer culture blur together with representations of drugs and drug use, creating a menacing, overarching stimulus.  Often, Wallace inverts traditional categories of drug culture and media consumption. The result is a dissonance between expectations for representation--that is, the language  context surrounding a particular object--and its ultimate realization in the text. The deadly “Entertainment” in the novel presents a sign around which all other addictive objects--things--are organized. In this project, semiotics, thing theory, and cultural criticism work in concert to tease out the shared language and substance in Wallace’s representation of drugs and media. These approaches prove especially useful in negotiating Wallace’s metamodern culture and its ingredient symbols, which are imbued with alternative values (in the language of Barthes).

Keywords: Wallace, David Foster, Infinite Jest, semiotics, cultural criticism, thing theory, literary theory, Barthes

Topic(s):English
Linguistics
Philosophy & Religion

Presentation Type: Oral Paper

Session: 101-1
Location: MG 1000
Time: 8:00

Add to Custom Schedule

Contact SRC Webmaster  |  SRC Privacy Policy